“In the end, it’s not the years in your life that count. It’s the life in your years,” this is one of the memorable quotes on life attributed to Abraham Lincoln, the 16th President of the United States.
Such talk about a life well lived characterised the eulogies of celebrated public relations guru and cricketer, Yona Namawa Wapakhabulo, whose remains were laid to rest at his ancestral home at Mafudu Village in the eastern district of Sironko yesterday.
Namawa, son of former Speaker of Parliament and minister, the late James Wapakhabulo, passed on at Platinum Medical Centre in Kampala on the Monday evening. From the time news of his death hit the streets of Kampala, different people have described his life as a short but well lived one.
At the vigil at Machame Health Club, Naguru on Thursday evening and at the funeral service at All Saints Cathedral, Nakasero on Friday, Namawa was described as a “a mentor, great listener and team player”.
At 46 and still rising in his fields of endeavour, this was certainly the wrong time for Namawa to die. We say this even when we know there is in most cases no good time to die.
Cause of death
Dr Josephine Wapakhabulo, the chief executive officer of the Uganda National Oil Company, said her brother succumbed to Infective Endocarditis, a bacterial infection that affected his heart.
One of those hurt by the early demise of Namawa is President Museveni, who told mourners during the funeral service at All Saints Cathedral, Nakasero to stop describing such death of young people as a decision by God.
“This business of saying God has called him or her at 46 like Yona is not good. Is God short of company or what?” the President quipped, forcing the mourners to burst into laughter.
He added: “I feel people should go up to 96 so that we can get maximum value out of them. My father (Amos Kaguta) died at 96 and I had time to exploit him and his words helped me to write the Runyankore dictionary.”
The President, accompanied by First Lady Janet Kataha Museveni, re-echoed his message to Ugandans to always have routine medical check-ups so that they are not killed by preventable diseases.
Mr Museveni said he was told by Wapakhabulo family that the deceased had had a bacterial infection for some time, beginning from his tooth and ended up spreading to the heart through the throat.
“Our people should be conscious about health and I feel that God should call people for a good purpose. So, stop self-medication and go for regular medical check-ups,” Mr Museveni said.
The President, who narrated to the mourners the best school moments he had with the late James Wapakhabulo, promised support to Namawa’s widow, Ms Dorothy Nasozi, and the five orphans.
Namawa’s colleagues at WMC Africa Limited where he was a managing partner, said they have lost a person whose special leadership qualities have nurtured them into responsible people, promising to keep the agency strong in his absence.
“Yona was a mentor and a colleague who gave us freedom to dream and fly in our roles. He was quiet and hard in action. He never yelled at anyone even if you left his office door open, he could raise and close it. He had a gift to identify and nurture talent because he was a great leader who allowed us to challenge him,” said Ms Primrose Kiberu the company’s chief operations officer.
The widow, Ms Nasozi described her departed husband as a God fearing person who was Born Again and humbled himself before the creator despite his education and background.
Ms Nasozi describe their nine years of official marriage as “good times” despite challenges they have passed through in making a family.
“It has not been an easy time for me but I am Born Again, so I praise God for my husband’s life. He’s been an exceptional man, a prayer warrior and loved the Lord with all his education and background. I have the hope to meet him because he is with the Lord now,” a smiling Ms Nasozi said.
The orphans led by Mr Myles Mukisa Wapakhabulo praised their father as one “who you would call when you don’t have something and it is there”. He said as children they have not cried because they have a reason to celebrate the life of their loving father who every Saturday found time to take them out to play and eat foods of their choice.
Rev Can Geoffrey Byarugaba called upon the mourners to always do perfectly to the expectation of God who created man in his image and gave him dominion over nature. He said people should have a choice of whether their next lives will be in the Kingdom of God or hell.
While at the night vigil at Machame Health Club, Naguru on Thursday, Prime Minister Ruhakana Rugunda confessed to the mourners that the WMC Africa team that worked with Namawa was “unbelievable” after they said he had tuned them to be good time keepers by being in office by 7am.
“What kind of transformation is this for such young people to be in office at 7am? The earliest I reach office is 9am and for sure, I will go to them for timekeeping lessons,” Dr Rugunda said.
Led by Dr John Kimbe, the alumni of King’s College Buddo who went to school with the deceased handed the famous school neck tie to the widow saying, Buddonians as they are known, never leave their own behind.
ABOUT YONA NAMAWA
Born on January 8, 1972, Yona Namawa Wapakhabulo went to Arusha School, Boroko East Primary School, Port Moresby High School, Kings College Budo, Makerere College School and Viterbo University, Wisconsin in USA.
A specialist in corporate communications, public affairs and crisis communications, Namawa joined WMC Africa Ltd in 2003 as the public affairs manager and rose to managing partner.
He worked on key strategic initiatives in Uganda and across the region in both the public and private sector for clients such as e Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Stanbic Bank Uganda, MultiChoice Uganda, MTN Uganda, DFCU Bank, Heritage Oil Ltd, Tullow Uganda, British Airways, Umeme.